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all is calm

Chapter Text

“Oh my god, would you just shut up?” Chloe’s voice rang out in the classroom, effectively stopping all conversations.

Chloe had her sights set on Marinette, her sudden remark drawing the attention of the rest of the class. Marinette blinked at Chloe, a frown forming on her face. Her hands, still mid-gesture from the story she’d been telling Alya, clenched in the air.

While becoming a target for Chloe wasn't a surprise for Marinette, it still startled her. Chloe had been quiet for most of the day so far, and so her sudden attack was out of the blue. It was a bit unusual for her to go off on someone without prompting. 

But there Chloe was, her arms crossed, looking down her nose at Marinette with her mouth twisted in disgust.

“Sorry but,” Marinette finally dropped her hands, “I wasn’t talking to you.”

Chloe flapped a perfectly manicured hand. “Does it matter? You were annoying me. Besides, nobody cares about your stupid little designs.”

“Uh, I do.” Alya leaned forward and narrowed her eyes.

“Like I said, nobody.” She gave an indelicate snort, glancing up and down at Alya’s outfit. "And besides, that's not saying much."

Alya was halfway out of her seat before being stopped by Marinette's hand on her arm. She threw Marinette a look that said ‘let me tear this girl apart,' her eyes blown wide with anger.

Even though she would love to let Alya go and let Chloe finally get a taste of her own medicine, Marinette knew better. She was Ladybug, and she had a duty as a hero to keep the peace. In light of the sudden presence of akumas in their lives, Chloe's behavior wasn't only rude, but dangerous. That meant that it was better to handle these situations delicately. 

So Marinette merely shook her head and gave Alya’s arm a reassuring squeeze. 

“She’s not worth it,” Marinette told her, trying to sound more at ease than she was.

Unable to argue with that, Alya sat back down.

"That's funny because I've been thinking lately," Chloe started back up, her tone suspiciously innocent, "who here really isn't worth it? And it's pretty obvious to me that it's you, Marinette." 

Marinette fumed, not liking where this all was going one bit. She tried breathing through her nose, but Chloe still going. 

"Adrien’s dad is a famous designer, Sabrina’s is a police officer, and obviously my Daddy is the Mayor and a successful business man. Alix’s family has been in the museum business for decades, and even Alya’s mom is a chef.” Chloe plowed on, unaware she was treading into dangerous territory. 

“But your family does... what exactly?”

“We own a very successful bakery-” Marinette didn’t want to rise to the bait, but Chloe was insinuating something about her family, and she couldn’t let that slide.

“That’s right, a dinky little bakery that is sure to be out of business before you’re even out of high school.” Chloe flipped her ponytail over her shoulder. “Pretty pathetic if you ask me.”

“Look, Chloe, I don’t care what you say about me, but don’t bring my family into this-” Marinette tried, only to be interrupted once more.

“Did I say you could talk?” Chloe threw back, and Marinette felt herself flush red with rage. “The only one here who isn’t worth anything here would be...you. You don’t deserve to be here. You don’t even deserve to speak.”

“What-”

“Bah!” Chloe interrupted, loudly.

“But I just-”

“Bah dah duh!” She mimed talking with her hand.

It was childish attempt to make Marinette angry, and she knew that, but she couldn’t help feeling harassed. She was twitching in her seat and so, so red because everyone was staring at her and- oh god, Adrien was looking right at her. Her classmates all seemed surprised, even for Chloe this was unusually cruel, but no one was stepping in. At least, no one until-

“Chloe, what are you doing?” With a strained voice, Adrien jumped in. 

He turned his attention from Marinette to Chloe, which helped her relax. At least, a little.

The girl smiled, it was a sickly sweet thing that made Marinette’s stomach churn. “Proving a point. Don’t act like you care about her Adrien. She’s just a lowly baker who has a weird, stalker-y crush on you.”

This information was news to Adrien because he blinked slowly and turned to Marinette. She’d gone from warm to deathly cold in an instant. Marinette could feel Alya tensing beside her, her friend’s hand reaching out to lightly touch her back. Now everyone really was staring at her, outright, not even trying to hide it. And Adrien was still looking at her with that shocked expression, and she wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole.

“I-uh, that is to say...” Marinette desperately tried to recover, but her embarrassment was getting the better of her. She felt dizzy, her shoulders hiking up around her ears and her throat closing up on her.

“See? Can’t even deny it, how pathetic.” And there was that word again, Marinette was shaking with anger and embarrassment.

“Chloe seriously lay off.” Adrien seemed to have recovered enough to turn back to Chloe, though there was now a pink tint to his cheeks and ears.

“I’m just protecting you! What if she tried something, huh? Forced herself on you or followed you home? I wouldn’t be surprised, considering how her people are I’m sure her oaf of a father bought her mother online or something, he seems the type.”

Marinette was out of her chair and across the room faster than even she could process, her hand gripped tightly in Chloe’s sequined shirt. She towered over the other girl, her face twisted into something beyond recognition. Her mouth had contorted in a snarl, and her eyes blazed. Some small, conscious part of Marinette had the sense to be alarmed, but most of her felt liberated as she stared down at Chloe's shocked (and scared?) expression.

“If you ever say something like that, about my family, again, I swear I will-” Marinette snarled, only to get cut off by the teacher's arrival. 

Chloe immediately turned on the waterworks, crying and clutching at her shirt in fake desperation. “Please don’t hurt me!”

“Ms. Dupain-Cheng, what is the meaning of this?” Mme Mendeleiev demanded.

“I, I was...” Again, Marinette couldn’t seem to put together the words, her anger melting away into white-hot shame.

“Principal’s office, now.” Mme Mendeleiev stepped aside and pointed to the door.

Marinette slowly released Chloe’s shirt and took a step back, trembling all over. Several students immediately came to her defense.

“Chloe was insulting her family!” Alya protested, and a few others nodded.

“And egged her on,” Alix added.

“Ms. Bourgeois will have to speak with the principal as well, but we never resort to violence in these situations. Dupain-Cheng, principal’s office.”

“Madame-” Marinette started, her voice shaking.

Go."

Of course, Mme Mendeleiev didn’t know that she’d done the very same thing that Chloe had done, but Marinette wasn't in a state to recognize that. She felt as if she was being shut down again and started shaking even harder. The anger and embarrassment were boiling under her skin, and she could feel Tikki pushing against her leg through the purse, sensing the swirl of emotions in her chosen. But even the comforting gesture wasn’t enough to calm Marinette down.

She growled, loud and raspy and angry, and stormed out of the room, yanking the door as she went.

 


 

Adrien watched as Marinette let loose what could only be described as a roar, a shout of frustration, and stomped to the door. Marinette wrenched it open and slammed it shut with both hands, the door rattling violently in its frame. The class was blown away by the outburst and by the tiny girl’s strength, watching through the windows as she stormed down the halls.

“What a drama queen.” Chloe had stopped crying and tossed her head.

“Oh, you’re one to talk.” Adrien threw back as he glared at her and she startled.

“Whatever do you mean?”

Adrien was furious, the calm and polite mask he put up in public rapidly crumbling away. “Really Chloe? You essentially called her mother a prostitute, her father a simpleton, and then shut her down when she tried to speak! What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Mr. Agreste, language.” Mme Mendeleiev warned.

“I don’t care if you send me to the principal’s office.” Adrien spit before turning to face Chloe more fully. “What she did was sick and cruel. And the worst part is that none of you is going to do anything because she’s the mayor’s daughter and you’re too scared of her to punish her. It’s a fucking outrage.”

There was a chorus of agreement, Nino yelling a ‘hear hear’ and Kim thumping his desk. It was rare to see anyone in the class stand up to Chloe, and Adrien had certainly never let himself do it before. He usually put their friendship about his feelings about Chloe’s behavior, but she’d pushed too far. Much, much too far.

Mme Mendeleiev was unprepared to deal with a class of rebelling students and decided to try to cut them off at the source. “Mr. Agreste, I’m going to have to ask you to leave if you don’t calm down.”

“Then do it.” He delivered it like a challenge, and Adrien felt the most dangerous he'd ever had out of the suit. 

She pointed to the door, and Adrien stood without hesitation, already planning to find Marinette.

 


 

Marinette had marched her way straight to the bathroom, stepping inside and slumping against the counter. Her head felt hot and strange, and she tried scrubbing her face with cold water. She was crying, she realized and pounded on the sink.

“Damn it.” She rubbed away the tears and stared at her red face in the mirror.

Marinette didn’t notice the black butterfly until it had settled on her purse.

“Silent Night.” A low voice rumbled in her ear, and she stood up straight as a rod. “I will help you get justice if in return you bring me Ladybug and Chat Noir’s Miraculous.”

“I-I can’t.” Marinette trembled with the effort to fight off the anger, the darkness of the akuma already seeping it’s way up her sides.

“Oh? You are a fighter. Maybe you will be strong enough to finish the job.”

She clenched her fists, distantly able to hear Tikki’s pleas for her to push back. It was difficult when all she could feel was the inky blackness crawling up her arms and down her legs. She fought, but it was so easy to let the darkness settle over her, consume her. Marinette gasped a breath before the black substance covered her head and she was drowning in rage.

Chapter Text

 Adrien wasn’t shocked when Alya burst out of the classroom after him. 

“You too, huh?” He stuffed his hands into his jeans’ pockets.

Alya smiled, it was more teeth than grin and Adrien winced.   “You got to say what I wanted to say before I could, so I had to get ...creative.”

Adrien felt glad that Alya considered him a friend. She was sharp, and loyal, and would be a fearsome enemy.

The two walked towards the principal’s office, moving relatively quickly through the halls.  Though they didn’t say anything out loud, Adrien knew they both hoped to get to Marinette before she reached the principal.  Adrien couldn't even imagine what was going through her head right now, but he knew that it was important to be gentle with her, especially considering the threat of her being...

Alya was the first to break the comfortable silence.

“I hope Mari is okay...” She tugged at a chunk of hair, looking aggravated.

Adrien gave a little nod. “I’m sure she’s fine. Marinette is a lot stronger than people give her credit for.”

“Well, I know that.” Alya tossed Adrien a sly look. He flushed, realizing that of chouse she did, she knew Marinette best. 

“But that was harsh, even for Chloe.”

“Something about Marinette makes Chloe especially nasty.” Adrien sighed, scratching at the back of his neck. “She’s threatened by her, for some reason.”

“‘Some reason.' Right.” Alya’s tone was strange, but before Adrien could ask what she meant, she froze. 

“Do...you hear that?”

Adrien paused, listening. “Hear what?”

“Listen closer.” Alya shook her head. “And don’t talk for a second.”

They stood in silence, Adrien attempting to pick up on what Alya was hearing. Even out of the suit, his hearing was better than most. Though he was as quiet as possible, all he could hear was his and Alya's soft breathing.

“I don’t hear anything.” Adrien finally admitted.

“Exactly.”Alya nodded her head vigorously, then huffed at Adrien’s confused look.  “We’re in the middle of Paris on a Monday. Normally, there would be the sounds of traffic or people talking, even just birds. But I can’t hear any of it.” 

Adrien tensed, once again trying to listen. It only took a second to discover Alya was right. The usual sound of the city, the white noise Adrien had known all his life, was absent. A chill ran up his spine, the sudden stillness almost suffocating.

“Who do we know that would be upset enough to turn into an akuma?” Alya sounded breathless and strained.

They made eye contact and grimaced.

“Marinette.”

They took off running.

She wasn’t in the principal’s office, or the waiting room outside. Alya started ducking into bathrooms, calling out the girl’s name. Adrien searched the halls and peeked into other classes. No one was screaming or shouting in panic. In fact, and it took him a couple of different classrooms to realize, no one seemed was talking at all.

Each room they passed, Alya and Adrien found utterly silent. The students and teachers looked tired and dull. They moved like they were robots, programmed to carry out tasks. And not a single one of them was talking. Not even the teachers at the front of the rooms, though their brows furrowed and throats strained to make noise. They were obviously behind Marinette and Adrien was trying to work out what to do when they eventually caught up with her.

He needed to turn into Chat Noir, and soon, but with Alya around transforming was risky. It would be bad enough if she were just a civilian, but this was Alya, the brains behind the Ladyblog. She had already caught him right before his transformation ran out more times than he cared to count. He’d have to wait for Alya to get distracted and stop paying attention to him. The sooner they found Marinette, the better because that would serve as the perfect distraction.

Just a moment later, the two turned to corner to their hallway and saw her. She was looking into the classroom, her back facing them. When Alya and Adrien stopped just short of her, she turned to them. 

Adrien had seen a lot of akuma victims, but never one like this. It looked like she was at war with herself, her arms twitching idly at her sides and her face shifting between panic and anger. The transformation was only half-formed, parts of it dripping away to show her regular clothes and appearance underneath. What had managed to come together appeared to be a black, skin-tight suit, so dark it almost seemed like looking into nothing than looking at a person.

Perhaps the most disturbing part was Marinette’s face, her jaw working and her mouth opened in a silent scream.

I am Silent Night. Marinette’s voice wasn’t something Adrien heard, but something he felt, winding into his thoughts like cold water. You look so weary handsome boy; you ought to sleep.

He suddenly felt like curling up into a ball and sleeping for the rest of his life. Marinette’s very presence was soothing, and he found himself closing his eyes and leaning against the hallway walls. It would be so easy to rest; it was quiet and calm here, it was safe. Distantly, he could hear Alya speaking, to him or Marinette he wasn’t sure. Even more distantly, he could feel a tug at his collar, and what seemed like little claws scraping at his chest.

All at once, the illusion of safety and warmth fell away as Alya shook him, hard. Adrien’s eyes snapped open, and he straightened. He’d slumped so far against the wall that he was almost on the floor. Marinette (Silent Night?) was staring at the two of them, her expression mostly the same but her eyes now wide with panic.

“Adrien, you need...to get away from here.” Alya’s speech was slow and labored, and Adrien knew when he tried to talk, his voice would sound the same. “Get...help.”

Adrien took a deep breath and looked back and forth between the two girls. “What about...you?”

Alya gave him a small, sad smile. “I have...to stay with...her.”

Adrien wanted to protest, leaving an unarmed civilian alone with an akuma victim was not something Chat Noir was supposed to do. If Ladybug found out, she’d have his head. But, Ladybug wasn’t there yet, and Adrien had already been looking for an opportunity to transform. Hopefully, he could get back in time before Silent Night did anything to Alya.

After a quick nod, Adrien shook his head, trying to clear away the confusing emotions he was experiencing. If whatever powers Marinette had managed to get through her only partial transformation were strong enough to do that, he shuddered to think what they would do at full strength. As Adrien backed away, he saw Marinette’s eyes tracking him. For a second, he thought she might follow, but Alya stepped in between them, her shoulders set firm and sure.

“Hey love, what’s happened to you?” Adrien heard Alya whisper as he turned the corner, her voice stronger than it had been a moment before and gentler than he’d ever heard it.

He got as far as possible before stopping and opening up his jacket. “Plagg, are you there?”

“Adrien.” Plagg sounded deadly serious for the first time since Adrien had met the kwami. “Something isn’t right.”

Adrien hardly noticed the little tears in his shirt from where Plagg had tried to get his attention, instead of thinking about Marinette’s strange appearance, so unusual for an akuma.

“I know.” He gave a short nod. “But we need to work on distracting her until Ladybug gets here.”

“No, Adrien, that’s not it. Marinette is-”

“I’m sorry, but we don’t have time!” Adrien exclaimed. “Plagg, transform me!”

Into the ring Plagg got sucked, he was more resistant than usual. Adrien felt the green and black light of his transformation overtake him. Black leather stretched over his arms and legs, and the familiar (comforting) weight of his mask settled over his cheekbones. Within seconds, he was no longer Adrien, but Chat Noir.

He shook out his hair and straightened, already pulling out his baton. “Marinette's almost definitely headed for Chloe.”

Chat knew he should probably contact Ladybug, but a sudden crashing stopped him from making the call. 

With his baton extended, he began running back the way he had come. In the hall outside the classroom, he found Alya. Stood still, Alya was just staring off into the distance. Chat approached her cautiously, assuming she was like the other students and in a catatonic state.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when she turned to him abruptly.

“Chat Noir. Is Ladybug here as well?” Alya asked, twisting her hands together.

“Not yet, but I’m sure she’s on her way.” Chat assured her, resting a hand on her shoulder. “Where did the akuma victim go?”

Alya motioned to the classroom just a bit down the hall, but confusion was written all over her face. “It was...really weird. I’ve encountered akumas before, I’ve even been one, but something about Marinette seemed different. Other than her weird outfit...”

Chat inclined his head, gesturing for her to continue.

“It’s just that...they’re never really conscious, are they? And they don’t pay attention to anyone other than the person who wronged them, right?” Alya questioned, her phrases slow and thought out.

“In my experience, not really.”

Alya turned away from him. “Yeah, she definitely knew who I was. She said my name and everything. And she didn’t try to attack me, especially after seeing Adrien run off. It was like...”

“Like?” Chat prompted when Alya didn’t speak.

“It was like she was fighting back.” Alya sounded shocked and proud, glancing back to where Marinette had gone. “Like she wasn’t letting the akuma take over.”

“That sounds like Marinette.” Chat Noir stared off into the distance, giving a nod.

Alya whipped around to look at him. “You know Mari?”

“Uh, yes, well.” Chat coughed, trying to cover his mistake. “I’ve encountered her in a few attacks, and she always seemed...stronger than most?”

“Hmm.” Alya’s expression turned critical. “You probably need to get going. Akuma victim, and all.”

“Right!” He was thankful that Alya let him off so easily, he knew that normally he wouldn’t get away with a flimsy excuse like that. “I better go distract her until Ladybug arrives.”

With a wink and a jaunty salute that Chat didn’t quite feel, he took off for the classroom.

Inside, all the other students (and Mme Mendeleiev) were still, watching as Marinette approached Chloe. Chloe obviously knew who the akuma was, cowering in her seat. Chat was hit by that strange, calming sensation from before. Everyone else seemed affected by it as well, all blinking slowly and watching Marinette advance with no reaction.

“Princess!” Chat called, figuring it was safer to address her by familiar terms than her villain name. He certainly wasn’t calling her ‘Silent Night’ in his mind.

Maybe, if Marinette was fighting, perhaps she could win and shake off the akuma. Ladybug’s expression when she arrived to the akuma victim already saved would be worth seeing. 

Marinette paused in her approach, her motions stiff and jerky as she faced him.

Chaton, don’t get involved. That same not-voice told him, and he shivered.

“What is it, Princess? Chat got your tongue?” He cocked a hip and swung his tail, giving Marinette a cheesy wink.

A strange sound came from Marinette, out loud this time and with a start, Chat realized it was a laugh. A wrecked strangled one, but a laugh all the same. The realization filled him with hope; maybe he could save someone on his own. The fact that is was Marinette just sweetened the deal; he would able to help a classmate who had always been kind, if not a bit awkward around him (for reasons he now knew but didn’t have time to dwell on).

Suddenly, the black spandex started to spread further along Marinette’s arms, and legs and her expression became less conflicted and more angry.

Sorry mon petit minou, but that won’t do. Rest now.

She lifted a hand, and the same sluggish feeling from before struck Chat. He couldn’t think straight; he could barely breathe.

(He couldn’t wonder why Marinette had called him petit minou, Ladybug’s nickname for him.)

All he could do was stumble forwards and swing his baton, hoping that a physical disruption would lessen the effects of Silent Night’s powers. But she wasn’t there when he swung, somehow having moved to the other side of him.

With a firm kick in the back, Marinette knocked him over effortlessly, and he tumbled to the ground. It was like she could anticipate his next move perfectly, her foot dropping at his side to prevent him from rolling away, the other kicking his baton out of reach just before he grabbed it. All it took was another firm kick to his stomach to make him wheeze, and curl over on his side.

Stay down Chaton.  Her voice threaded through his mind, and he was compelled to obey, to lay down and let her move on to her next victim.

Marinette moved her foot from his side and started towards Chloe again, who gave a pitiful whimper. Out of everyone in the room, Chloe was the only one present enough to react still. 

Chat groaned, clutching his stomach. Marinette's request, no demand, was still ringing in his ears and it would be so easy to stay on the ground. Part of Chat (and he suspected it was the parts of him that were Plagg) fought the fatigue and tried to jump him back into action. But everything was so fuzzy and confusing, and Chat couldn't find the energy to think, let alone move. In the fog, the only coherent thought Chat had seemed to echo through his mind.

Where is Ladybug?

Chapter Text

Marinette was drifting.

There were short moments of extreme lucidity. In those instances, she was fully aware, could tell what was going on around her and even react to it. When Alya reached out, gently took her hand and told her she was going to be alright, Marinette could smooth back her friend’s hair and attempt a smile. Chat’s joking and being called ‘Princess’ tore a laugh out of her weak and aching throat. Seeing Adrien slumped against the wall, droopy-eyed and weak because of her, filled her with panic and guilt. Each time, she could feel something.

And then Silent Night would take over the second she lost her concentration.

Marinette couldn’t tell where Tikki was. She tried not to think too hard about it, unsure if the Papillion could read her mind to some extent. Thoughts of Tikki and of Ladybug got shoved aside as soon as they formed. Unfortunately, it was really hard to not think about it all when Chat was right there, looking around as though Ladybug was going to come crashing in through a window and save the day.

When ignoring the existence of Ladybug failed, all Marinette could do was hope that Tikki had escaped her purse before it had been akumized. Marinette didn’t want to know what would happen if her friend and kwami was trapped inside.

She tried not to think about it.

Marinette also attempted to ignore the clinical and merciless way she had attacked Chat. Knocked him to the ground and pinned him there, told him to stay down. It was like watching another person, Marinette had no control over her body and yet, was still present enough to see everything Silent Night was doing. She wondered if that was how Chat had felt when the Puppeteer had taken control of him, or even when Dislocoeur had got him with the arrow.

(She wished that Chat didn't feel like he had to throw himself in the way of every attack sent her way, but that wasn't the most present issue at the moment.)

Every second she spent trapped inside her own head was like walking through a raging storm and still she fought with all her might. Even if Chat could find the akuma and release it (though the way he laid nearly passed out on the ground showed there was a long ways to go before he accomplished that), he had no way of purifying it and it could easily go on to transform countless others.

Marinette couldn’t allow that. Ladybug couldn’t allow that. So she pushed as hard as she could, trying to make herself feel something or say something. But it was difficult, incredibly difficult. The temptation to let anger take over was strong, so was the cloud over her mind. The fog made it almost impossible to think, let alone make an attempt to fight back.

So far, whenever Marinette tried to speak, Silent Night took over instead and twisted her words. The Papillion was still trying to talk to her, but his speech was garbled and strange. Marinette wasn’t sure if that was the botched transformation’s doing or her being Ladybug or maybe even a little bit of both, but either way, she was glad that he didn’t seem to be in her head too much. He got louder when she knocked down Chat, seemed to be encouraging her to take his Miraculous, but Silent Night focus remained on Chloe.

Marinette knew the only way she was going to get out of this was if she fought off the akuma and somehow transformed. Her best bet was getting Chat to bait her away, but with him on the floor from her last command, that would be difficult.

Marinette tried to turn and look at Chat, her best friend, the silly boy who flirted incessantly and yet, was always there for her when she needed him. She needed him now, maybe more than ever, to help her. To keep her right, keep her from hurting anyone. To bring her back.

Chat! She practically screamed into her mind, desperation coloring her thoughts. Chat, can you hear me?

In her peripheral, she could see the boy jolt. He was still on the ground and when he raised his head, his eyes were shiny and out of focus. Chat blinked slowly up at her and though Marinette couldn’t seem to get control of her limbs, ‘talking’ was easier. Obviously he had heard (felt?) something, so she tried again.

Marinette pushed her thoughts towards Chat as forcefully as she could manage. You have to wake me up. Tell stupid jokes, slap me; I don’t care! Just wake me up.

Chat stared at her a moment, brow furrowing under his mask. He shook his head, blonde hair fanning out under his stupid cat ears. Marinette realized the familiar sight was comforting rather than silly, for once.

Gritting her teeth, Marinette tried her best to slow her body down while giving Chat a chance to come to and get up. Chat was pushing on the ground, his shoulders hunched like there was a great weight upon them, and Marinette could see the way he strained to stand.

Come on kitty. I need you.

With that thought, Chat seemed renewed, shoving himself up forcefully until he was on his feet. He swayed lightly, still blinking like he was tired. It was a start though, and Marinette silently cheered him on.

“Princess.” Chat called, and Marinette almost winced because for a second she had forgotten that Chat was seeing Marinette and not Ladybug. “Why bother with that pathetic girl when you could fight me?”

Marinette could hear Chloe sputtering behind her, apparently taking offense at being called ‘pathetic.' Which was ironic, considering...

Silent Night whipped around to face Chloe dead on, and Marinette panicked.

She is pathetic, isn’t she?  Silent Night’s thoughts rang out through the whole room and by the way her classmates shuddered, they had all heard it. All the more reason to get rid of her.

“Don’t get distracted. His Miraculous is more important than your little temper tantrum!” The Papillon's voice came through clearer than it had since she first transformed, and neither Silent Night nor Marinette liked what he was saying.

You don’t control me. Silent Night told the villain, on that point, Marinette could agree. 

A chilling chuckle filled her mind. “But I do control your powers.”

Marinette felt her arms shaking, the places where the transformation was complete jerking back towards Chat. She frowned and tugged, knowing it was the Papillion that was making her move. Silent Night was also resisting, even more than Marinette was, and dragged the both of them closer to Chloe.

The blonde was still cowering and Marinette was shocked at how pleased that made her, how satisfying it was to see Chloe being put in her place. All those times she’d treated Marinette and her friends with cruelty and disrespect were on the forefront of her mind and things got hazy. Everything mixed and dulled to the point where Marinette was having a hard time figuring out where Silent Night ended and Marinette started.

“Silent Night! Don’t lose focus!” Papillon’s roar startled her out of the fog.

“Shut up!” She yelled back.

Though everyone in the room was still, it seemed as though they froze further with her shout and Marinette realized she had managed to speak out loud. Chat was watching her, a strangely unreadable expression on his face as he seemed to consider her.

Marinette felt her hand reaching for her side, Silent Night grabbing on to the purse at her side. While Marinette strained against the motion, Silent Night ignored her, and threaded her hand through a little loop of string. Throwing her hand down, the purse dangled away from the loop, and Silent Night twisted her wrist until it started spinning. Marinette watched with detached horror as the pieces came together.

A yo-yo. Of course.

While it was lacking the red and the spots of her usual weapon, it was still undoubtedly a Ladybugesque yo-yo, black as the rest of her suit. If Marinette had the time, she would have admired the way starlight seemed to fall from it, trailing in the wide circle the yo-yo cut through the air. As it was, Marinette was a little busy being panicked by her entirely too obvious weapon and watching Chat for his reaction.

Though he looked a bit surprised, Chat didn’t seem to make the (obvious, obvious!) connection, instead lowering into a fighting stance. His baton was still out in the hall, but that didn’t stop the teen from squaring up, reading to attack.

Don’t be ridiculous chaton, do you plan to fight me with your fists alone? Silent Night’s voice had regained its detached quality, though now something smug and snide curled into her silent voice.

“You’d be surprised at the damage these paws can do.” Chat curled one in a (frankly ridiculous) imitation of cat paws. “But, no. I don’t intend to fight you, Princess. Let’s just talk.”

Marinette wasn’t sure she liked the sound of that, though it seemed to peak Silent Night’s interest because she stopped spinning the yo-yo and cocked a hip. Talk? I think I like you better when you can’t...

Chat opened his mouth again, but this time no sound came out. He frowned, grabbing at his neck a little. Surprisingly, whatever powers Silent Night was directing at Chat seemed to lessen the effect of the spell she had on the students and teacher, because they shook themselves and blinked. A few of them were starting to climb out of their seats, Julexa and Rose hurrying to each other sides and Ivan started to stand, body turned like he was going to join Mylene.

Alright, you work like the Mime. Marinette partly directed the thought to Chat. Directing your powers at one focused point makes all the other spells weaken .

Silent Night was both surprised and annoyed by this knowledge, stopping the charm she’d cast over Chat to settle the students back down. Marinette could feel her confusion at the fact that her powers had limitations, and distantly hear Papillion muttering to himself about it as well. It felt wrong, in a way like the rest of her transformation was. It was off .

Maybe it was due to the faulty transformation, Marinette wasn’t sure. Her powers were still present, just not quite as strong as she would have thought. Maybe the thing dulling them wasn’t Marinette herself but actually...Tikki’s influence?

Silent Night managed to relax the students, they let out a collective sigh, falling back into their seats while Chat cleared his throat noisily.

“Interesting...” Chat narrowed his eyes. “I have a feline that will come in handy later.”

Put it out of your mind. Silent Night commanded, though there wasn’t the extra bite of compulsion to make Chat forget.

Silent Night didn’t notice, too pissed off to pay attention, but Marinette saw Chat shifting around her, making his way closer to Chloe with what appeared to be an unhurried stride. She was still on the defensive, whipping her yo-yo back into a rapid spin.

It seemed to happen in an instant, but Chat lunged for Chloe, scooping her up as she squawked, and charged for the door. Silent Night watched in surprise as Chat grabbed up his baton and ran down the hallways.

Though she was annoyed to be caught off guard, Silent Night was only a little put off that her target was being carted off by Chat. She drifted out of the room, by passing a still fairly out of it Alya, and allowing the sleepiness she’d forced upon the school away when she reached the front doors. Distantly, she could hear the sounds of people beginning to panic, but it didn’t matter to her. They hadn’t done anything wrong, and weren’t deserving of her anger.

Standing on the front steps of the school, Silent Night saw Chat levering himself and Chloe up onto the rooftops with him, the blonde girl shrieking all the way. It may have been amusing in a different circumstance. Silent Night could see Chat checking over his shoulder, he made eye contact with her once and swept his clawed hand in silent invitation, that familiar cheeky smile gracing his features.

Come and get me.

Marinette was enraged. The closest her and Chat had ever come to using a civilian as bait was when Kim had hidden from Animan at her family’s bakery, but that was more a matter of circumstance than part of the plan. But they didn’t do civilian casualties, of any sort, the first priority was always keeping the people of Paris safe from akuma victims. Marinette wasn’t sure how much damage her powers could restore, and wasn’t sure if serious injuries could be healed. She’d never tested it, and wasn’t planning to anytime soon.

Chat was baiting her with Chloe; he was purposely putting a civilian in danger. As soon as they got everything solved, she was going to have a word with him.

Silent Night, however, was delighted. She narrowed her eyes, her own smile stretching wide and cruel, and slung her yo-yo towards the rooftops. It would just be a simple matter of catching up to Chat and Chloe.

( And, well... )

Silent Night tugged the string and shot off towards the sky, body relaxed as she landed easily on one of the rooftops before sprinting after them, darkness and starlight dripping off her suit as she went.

( ...she’d always been faster than Chat. )

Chapter Text

Chat had no idea what he was doing. He hadn’t necessarily been making a plan when he carted Chloe off. All he knew is that he needed to get Marinette (because he still refused to think of her as Silent Night, she wasn’t gone yet) away from the other students. And the best way to that was with bait. Thus, Chloe.

If Ladybug were around, she’d probably smack him over the head with her yo-yo. As it was, Ladybug wasn't around, for whatever reason, and Chat could get away with indelicate tactics. He didn’t have time to stop and call her, knowing Marinette was likely hot on his trail. So he jumped over rooftops, keeping an eye out for the familiar flash of red and hoping that she wouldn’t be too mad at him once she eventually showed up.

(There was another reason he took Chloe, albeit a more subconscious one that Chat wasn’t ready to recognize. Without Ladybug, he wasn’t able to pull some of the more...reckless stunts he usually did. His sense of self-preservation was next to none; he’d never hesitated to throw himself into the way of danger for the sake of his lady. Totting Chloe around ensured that he had a reason not to get hurt, and to watch his back, albeit a weak one.)

They had been running for a while when Chloe finally seemed to come to her senses and react.

“Put me down, put me down!” Chloe was slamming her fists into Chat’s back and, while he had undoubtedly taken worse blows, it wasn’t the most comfortable thing.

Chat rolled his eyes, looking around for somewhere safe they could hide. “Okay, okay, give me a second.”

He found a little alcove and hopped in, setting Chloe down after a moment of listening for the sound of Marinette approaching. Though, Chat thought, he probably wouldn’t be able to hear her anyway.

“We really should get going again, and I don’t know how far off- ohmygod are you crying? ” Chat had turned to see Chloe Bourgeois, the sole cause of a good 70 percent of all akuma victims, sniffling to herself.

The fact that she wasn’t making a big deal out it was maybe more startling than anything else. Adrien had seen Chloe cry before, and she was dramatic about it. Her eyes would well up, and she would break into full body (and faked) sobs. She ‘ho-ed’ and ‘ha-ed’ and sounded a bit like a stuck up, teenaged Santa Claus. But this was different.

Chloe just sat there, arms wrapped around her center, head bowed as she tried to sniff away the snot that began to drip down from her nose. Her tears fell silently, and for once, she didn’t make any sound while she cried other than occasional sniffles. Chat honestly didn’t know how to handle a genuinely upset Chloe. (If he were honest, he didn’t know how to handle a genuinely upset anyone.)

“Are...you...okay?” Chat knew he sounded painfully awkward, but he didn’t know what else to say.

“Obviously, I am not.” Chloe’s voice was just as sharp as usual, but there was something behind the biting tone that was a little more...vulnerable.

“Um.” Chat blinked, ever eloquent in times of distress. “Can I ask...what’s wrong?”

Chloe didn’t respond at first, instead of hugging herself a little tighter. She hiccuped a real, genuine hiccup, and shuddered a little. One hand came up to tug at her ponytail (a sure sign of her distress, Chloe Bourgeois would never think of messing up her hair in normal circumstances) and she glanced up at Chat.

“I. Uh. I may have lost my one of my best friends today.”

“...what?”

“You heard me the first time!” Chloe snapped, though her shoulders slumped slightly. “I don’t even know why I'm telling you this. It’s not like you’d understand.”

Chat was, frankly, floored. Chloe was crying because she lost a friend? Was she talking about Adrien? Him yelling at her and calling her out on her bullshit had resulted in, whatever this was? Even with Chloe sitting in front of him, looking lost and a little confused, he still couldn’t make the pieces click. Chat couldn’t imagine her valuing their friendship enough to get upset to the point of crying.

In fact, Chat couldn’t imagine her valuing anything enough to cry.

“I’m sorry???” He tried, and Chloe snorted.

“Don’t apologize for something you didn’t do, that’s stupid.”

But I did do it. I think? Chat wasn’t sure what to think. “Um, does this have something to do with the akuma?”

Adrien knew that it did, but Chat didn’t, so he figured he might as well play it safe.

“Ugh, of course, she turned into this super powerful villain that can make people do whatever she wants, of course .” Chloe threw a hand out, suddenly agitated. “Like she doesn’t do that enough already.”

“...what.”

“That girl, the aku-whatever, her name is Marinette Dupain-Cheng. She’s awful .” Chloe enthused, and Chat was almost surprised that it looked like she genuinely meant it.

“Um. Really?” Chat frowned, trying to think of a way that Marinette, sweet and kind and gentle (and admittedly very powerful now that she was an akuma) Marinette, was ‘awful.'

Chloe tugged at her hair more fiercely. “Everybody likes her and talks to her, and she has friends.”

“You...don’t have friends?”

“Not really. Sabrina only hangs around because I give her free stuff and she’s got some weird, hero worship thing going on. And Adrien...well. I guess he probably never really was my friend.”

Chat was, again, ffloored.He didn’t know that Chloe had the self awareness to pick up on the fact that her thing with Sabrina was, frankly, unhealthy. Or the self awareness to realize that their friendship was fairly shallow and mostly one-sided. Ever since he’d started public school, the time he’d spent with Chloe had been dwindling and he’d seen her more and more for the selfish person she was. The fallout from earlier that day had been a long time coming.

“This Adrien guy...” Chat winced, both at having to refer to himself in the third person and the fact that he was still pressing, for some reason. “...is he the one-”

“Yes. Marinette has him now too, I guess.” Chat was affronted at being referred to as property, but Chloe plowed on. “She gets everything . She’s class president, friends with everybody in our class, and knows Jagged Stone personally. Her best friend, you know, that girl that runs the Ladyblog? She’s got influence and she yelled at me cause I upset Marinette or whatever today.”

Chat was silent as Chloe seemed to think. “Adrien did too. She managed to turn him against me.”

“None of those things sound like they have to do with you, though.” Chloe didn’t notice that his words came out a little too harsh for an unbiased party. “And the Adrien thing. It just sounds like she made friends with him.”

“She doesn’t need more friends; she has plenty! She's just greedy.” Chloe argued with a huff. “Plus, she already has her happy little family or whatever, she doesn’t need more.”

The ‘happy little family’ line stopped Chat short, especially considering what Chloe had said earlier that day.

“Are you...jealous of her, Chloe?”

“What?! No!” Chloe sputtered, waving her hands around. “Why would I be jealous of her? She’s just...lucky...I guess...”

Her voice got a little weaker with every pause, and her reaction was telling enough.

Chat...understood, to an extent. There were often times that he looked at Marinette’s parents, or Alya’s siblings, or even Nino and his easy friendship with just about everyone and felt jealous. No, jealous wasn’t the right word...maybe longing . He wished for those things, for parents to greet him when he came home from school, to pester him and his friends with food and company. For siblings to run around his legs and break his things and play with him. For someone to talk to. For someone to love him.

But he had his friends and Ladybug. Chloe didn’t have anybody, other than Sabrina and, well, Adrien . And even then, she seemed to know she didn’t even really have them. Her father was dotting, but distant, gave her expensive gifts but was too busy being a politician and a businessman to pay attention to her.

To look at Marinette, to see a girl with friends and loving parents and a fairly happy life, it must have been hard for someone who got everything she wanted but never anything she really needed.

“You’re jealous of her.” Chat said again, though this time it wasn’t a question.

Chloe stared down at her hands like she was seeing them for the first time. “...yeah. I’m....I’m jealous of her.”

Before Chat could speak, he noticed something odd, feeling his ears (the cat ones) prick without his control. He glanced up, frowning at the area around them.

“That’s weird...” Chat muttered, pulling out his baton and extending it.

“What? What’s wrong?” Chloe looked up, her expression panicked again.

“I can’t hear anything.”

The silence was heavy, oppressive, and most of all, familiar. Even though Chat could see people on the street from his place in the alcove, cars driving by and pigeons bobbin along, he couldn't hear any of it. Chloe was still sort of sniffling and Chat knew he needed to get her somewhere safer, and be able to listen.

“Chloe, be quiet and get behind me.” Chat started backing deeper into the alcove, pulling up the girl and herding her behind him.

“Wait, Chat Noir-”

“Chloe, quiet!” He turned to her, his voice a little harsher than necessary.

Her face scrunched up like she was sucking on a lemon, and she pointed at the street. “Look at the cars.”

Chat turned to look, not sure of what she was trying to point out, until it dawned on him. The cars near the building a few down from their own would slow, as if traveling through mud, before picking up speed once they passed it. This happened in every lane of traffic, and the wave of slowing cars was starting to get closer to their own building.

“She’s coming.” Chat grabbed Chloe up, and this time she didn’t argue when he took off.

Chat was too focused on running to really pay attention to where they were going, as long as it was away, he was good with it. And he still hadn’t formulated a plan. He mentally cursed himself, wishing he had spent the moments they were stopped trying to contact Ladybug rather than needling Chloe. His grip tightened on her carefully as he felt her slipping.

Mon petit chat, why are you so sad?

Chat flattered, nearly fumbling as he landed on a rooftop. Marinette had been... silent whilst pursuing him. At least, up until that point. Her sudden not-voice had startled him, but he righted himself as he continued to run.

Why am I so sad? What is she talking about? Chat could feel his brows furrowing in confusion.

Mon petit chat, you mustn’t cry like that.

Something about the words Marinette was saying was familiar. Chat couldn’t quite place them, but he recognized them. The cadence at which she spoke seemed rehearsed, like reciting a poem maybe? He tried to push it from his mind, focus on making the jumps.

Over the divides, underneath awnings, Chat knew the city like the back of his hand, and made good use of his knowledge. He could probably navigate it blindfolded, which he nearly had to because Chloe's shoulder was riding ever higher into his face.

Your mama will come back...

Chat almost missed a jump entirely, gasping for breath. It was a rhyme, a nursery rhyme, something his mother used to tell him when he was younger. He could feel Chloe’s grip his shoulders tightened as his lopes became less even, as his breath came faster and more frantically.

How had he forgotten about it? How did Silent Night, no, Marinette, know?

...she’ll comfort you.

Where was he, where did he need to jump next? Chat was having a hard time focusing on anything other than Marinette’s voice and the words she spoke. Her not-voice morphed, until it was no long Marinette’s, but his mother’s, as clear and strong in his mind as the days before she disappeared.

Chat knew his jumps were becoming more erratic and his pace shifting by the way Chloe clung to him, and by the way panic rose in his throat. His arms were beginning to ache, and he only just realized that Chloe was becoming a deadweight on his shoulder. The suit may have given him near-invulnerability and super strength to a degree, by carrying a teenaged girl over the rooftops of Paris whilst being chased by a possessed classmate would tire anyone eventually.

In the warmth of your basket...

Chat heard it then, the zip of a yo-yo, and for a second let himself hope that Ladybug had arrived. Let himself wish that his lady had arrived and that everything would be alright. But he knew that Marinette (for a reason he didn't have time to study in-depth) had a yo-yo as well. For the first time, that little buzzing sound that usually brought him happiness and anticipation filled him with dread.

He stumbled on a shingle, nearly dropping Chloe and tripping into the space between buildings. He had to stop a moment to right himself, but that moment was all it took for a black figure to catch up and drop in the darkened alcove before him. Chat flinched back, holding Chloe a little tighter, as Silent Night stepped out of the shadows.

The first thing he noticed was her eyes, bright and fiery in contrast to the darkness of her mask. They were blown wide with panic and Chat knew it was because the suit had extended so far across her arms and legs. The only sign that Marinette was still there and still kicking was the fear in her eyes. He noticed the strange familiarity of seeing that face masked, of the way she swung her yo-yo and moved towards him, steps sure and steadfast.

But most of all, Chat Noir noticed the cruel smile on her face, curling like her words coiled through his mind and made everything stop.

...you’ll dream.

Chapter Text

It was pouring. That all-encompassing kind of rain that seemed to sink into every crevice, chilling all the way to the bone. The torrential downpour dimmed everything else, the heavy splatter of water falling from rooftops near deafening. Marinette could hardly breathe through it all, unable to figure out if this was Silent Night’s doing, or if it was Paris, mourning the events taking place.

As time passed, it seemed like the later was more likely.

Water spilled down Marinette’s face, and she tried to force herself to blink it away, but it was difficult when another person was in control of most of her body. Silent Night didn’t seem to care that rainwater was quite literally streaming straight into her eyes, too focused on Chat to do much of anything.

And Chat was too focused on whatever Silent Night had done to him to fight back. Or to do much other than stand there, looking small and lost, his green eyes unfocused on what was before him.

Chloe was cowering behind him, Marinette noticed at the same time as Silent Night, also looking pretty lost.


Hiding behind someone?  Silent Night’s voice reverberated through the air, the buildings and Chloe trembled with the force of it. How typical.

Chloe sniffled, wiping her nose on her jacket. The motion didn’t go unnoticed by Marinette, who had initially mistaken the wetness of the blonde’s face for rain but realized in an instant that it was tears instead. Her eyes were puffy and red from crying, something that shocked Marinette to her core, but Silent Night felt no pity as she stalked forwards, towards the pair.

Are you going to come willingly, or will I have to take out your little pet? Her voice ( Silent Night’s voice) was taunting and coiling. Though, he was my pet first.

Marinette could feel Papillon's confusion through their weak connection, see it written across Chloe’s face. Subtle, they’ll never find out now

“What is that supposed to mean?” Chloe demanded, her arms wrapped tight around her stomach. “Don’t tell me that you have him too-”

Quiet. Silent Night was in front of Chloe in an instant, finger held to the other girl’s mouth. It was entirely still despite her full body flinch. That’s for me to know and you to never find out.

Shuddering, Chloe tried to back away, but she was already backed into a corner. Her eyes went wide when her shoulders hit the brick of the little awning, and she stared across at Silent Night with terror. Silent Night just kept stalking nearer, and as much as she dug her metaphorical heels in, Marinette couldn’t stop her. Her control had been weakening all this time, and it seemed like she finally had lost it. She was just a bystander now, stuck in a body that no longer felt like her own.

Now tell me, Chloe Bourgeois, what are you most afraid of?

Marinette watched as Chloe’s eyes flickered to the side, Silent Night tracking the movement smoothly. She followed Chloe’s gaze, back to towards the school and a little further, until she saw where Chloe looked. A cruel smile formed on her face without Marinette’s consent.

Got it.

 


 

Adrien (or was it Chat? things were getting all muddled in his head) knew that what he was seeing was impossible. It was less to do with the fact that his mother was there, bathed in sunlight and beaming at him, than the fact that his father was at their side and smiling.

Smiling.

Another dead giveaway was that fact that he’s almost this was a memory, something from before his mother disappeared and Gabriel transformed from a loving, if not somewhat preoccupied, caregiver to a ghost of a man and an overbearing father.

His mother was running her fingers through his hair, humming under her breath. Adrien remembered the day now that he sat in it, they’d all packed up and gone down to a nearby park, his mother planned the trip and convinced Gabriel to join them. Back then, he wasn’t as glued to his work and could spare a few hours to spend time with his family. It was about a year before she disappeared, back when things were still happy.

Back when Adrien was still happy.

Adrien munched on some grapes, following the unspoken script and going along with the day as it had been before. He didn’t quite know how he ended up here, but all the mattered was that his mother was there and his father was smiling.

As happy as he was, sitting with his family, Adrien couldn’t shake the feeling that something was inexplicably wrong. Not only was he reliving a day that had long passed, but he knew something was missing. Some presence in his life that didn’t exist at this time, some person who wasn’t yet there that he missed deeply. Adrien didn’t know how he could lose someone he couldn’t even remember (or was it hadn’t yet met?), but he managed. Who could be so important that they made one of his happiest days seem grey? 

“What is it, mon lapin ?” His mother questioned, fingers tracing a little scar on his forehead from when he’d fallen out of a tree as a child. Gabriel had raged at the time, yelling things about appearances and responsibility, but later his mother had just told him that his father was scared and worried.

This wasn’t on script, and the wrongness of the moment grew stronger.

“Someone’s missing,” Adrien responded easily, as though it wasn’t throwing him off balance. “Someone I haven’t even met. ”

“They must be very important if you’re them missing before you’ve even met.” A familiar smile quirked on his mother’s face, one he’d seen somewhere else too.

“I thought the same thing.”

“Well,” His father spoke suddenly, “what good will it do it you don’t try to find them? I thought I raised you to go after what you want.”

Even in my dreams, he isn’t satisfied. Adrien mused, his head lolling on his mother’s knee to look at Gabriel.

For some reason, he was bathed in purple, little white butterflies flitting around his head. They turned black when they touched him and flew off into the sky. Something Adrien had wondered, had suspected, began to surface before the cooling water of his mother’s voice washed it away.

“There’s no need for that, Gabe.” She scolded, shaking her head at her husband who in turn dipped his. The only one to ever humble that man, and she was lost forever.

“I just think he ought to make an effort to find whoever it is.” Ever stubborn, Gabriel’s pale eyes focused on Adrien.

That was another hint. Gabriel’s eyes had never looked so cold when Adrien’s mother was still there.

While he thought, Adrien gazed around the park. There was no one else there, which made sense cause they’d gone in the middle of a work day, but there was something else strange about it. All of the edges of things seemed fuzzy, except for his parents and the tree they were under. Adrien narrowed his eyes, whipping at them a bit, trying to decide if the haziness was real or imagined.

When the whole world swayed and seemed to blink in and out of focus, he knew it was.

Adrien sat up abruptly, startling both his parents. They stared at him expectantly, waiting for him to speak. They had always been so patient with him, letting him find the words in his own time, and taking in his thoughts like they were something important, something to be treasured.

Seeing them like this made Adrien realize how much he truly missed them.

“I...I have to go.”

“If that’s your choice.” Adrien’s mother nodded, reaching out a hand to brush the bangs from his eyes. “We’ll wait for you here.”

Adrien looked between them, his father giving a stern nod that was at odds with the small smile on his face. “Okay.”

Adrien pushed up off the ground and frowned, staring off into the distance. It seemed like heading deeper into the park, where things were the most fuzzy, would be his best bet. He took off with long strides, walking straight for the fog.

Before he reached it, he spared a glance back at his parents. Gabriel was leaned over, whispering something to Adrien's mother that made her throw her head back and laugh. Something clenched in adrien’s chest, and he tried to burn the picture into his mind before turning away and marching on.

When he reach the haze, the world dropped out from under his feet.

And he fell.

 


 

 

Marinette knew where they were going the moment Silent Night had swept Chloe up. She remembered her first few days as Ladybug well, the confusion of meeting Tikki, the hope in finding a friend in her partner. The rush she felt as she made her claim on her city, promised them that she would protect them and save them from Papillion. It was all as clear as day in her mind, every second of it embedded in her very soul.

Which is why when they started for the Eiffel Tower, Marinette knew exactly what was going to happen.

Chloe had never mentioned it to her, as Marinette or Ladybug, but that day when she was thrown from the Tower must have stuck with the girl as well. With her heightened senses, Ladybug had been able to see the fear in Chloe’s eyes after catching her, despite her attempts to shake it off. Something like that stayed with you forever, and Marinette would know.

The girl in question had been surprisingly quiet the whole way, except for the occasional whimper.

Guess she knows where we’re going too.

It didn’t take long for them to make it back to the school. The students were already long gone, having been sent home after the attack. If Marinette knew Alya (which she did ) she’d be right on their tail, following the whole way. Marinette wondered when Alya would start to get suspicious about Ladybug not showing up. She wondered the same thing about Papillion.

At the Tower, Silent Night paused, taking in the empty area.

That won’t do at all. We need an audience.

Marinette probably shouldn’t have been surprised that, in the absence of Chat, one of them had to have a flair for dramatics.

She wasn’t sure how Silent Night was going to gather her audience until she hopped up on one of the bars, Chloe still wrapped in her arms, and began to hum. The sound was faint, but like Silent Night’s voice, seemed to reverberate through the Eiffel Tower, making it all buzz and shake. The tune was familiar, but Marinette couldn’t place.

Of course, she basically has a giant antenna.

In the wake of her humming came the dozens, hundreds of people. Anyone who was nearby must have been drawn in by Silent Night’s magic, because they were all gathering together near the bottom of the tower. Their faces were dull and blank, staring up emptily at Silent Night. Marinette could feel Chloe shuddering. She thought that if she was in control of her body, she’d be doing the same.

Sleep in heavenly peace...sleep in heavenly peace.

Realization hit Marinette as everyone in the square sat as one, still staring up at Silent Night, waiting for her instructions.

Hmm, mon chaton isn’t here yet. We’ll have to wait. Silent Night strung her yo-yo around Chloe, keeping her arms wrapped to her sides. Though it wasn’t like she was going anywhere anytime soon.

“But I thought...you did something to him, right?” Chloe’s voice was faint.

Yes, but he’ll break out of it soon. My kitty is much stronger than people give him credit for. It was still strange for Marinette, after all that had happened that day, to hear her voice being used by someone else.

It was also strange that Marinette found herself agreeing.

When he gets here, then we’ll begin.

Chloe frowned, her arms twitching at her sides. “Begin what?”

A low buzz shook through the tower, and it took Marinette a moment to realize it was her , she was laughing .

You’ll just have to wait and see .

Chloe gave a little whimper and Marinete found that, for the first time in her life, she felt bad for her. Silent Night merely smirked then twisted her head. Marinette followed her gaze to see a speck of black in the distance, making it’s way over the rooftops and towards them.

Seems like we’ve traded places now, haven’t we Chaton? Silent Night called, and released Chloe from the yo-yo, only to sling it towards the top of the Tower.

They began to scale the beams, gaining speed before they reached the very top. Marinette could feel Chloe trembling in her arms, and wished she could comfort her to some extent. For all she did, no one deserved this.

Chloe let out a yelp as she was once again wrapped up, this time Silent Night hooking the string over a pole and letting her dangle. She swung back and forth lightly, her face deathly pale as she stared at the ground, hundreds of feet below.

Silent Night leaned forward, glancing down to see Chat picking his way through the mob of people.

Alright everyone, time to get up . Her voice rang down through the tower.

The people in the square all stood together, and immediately jumped on Chat. Marinette would have gasped if she could, watching Chat try to fight them off without hurting anyone. He managed to get through a few at a time, launching himself over their heads with his baton only to get pulled down and have to repeat the process.

He was still a ways out when Silent Night grinned across at Chloe before she tightened her grip on the yo yo’s string and-

Let the show begin.

-let go.

Chapter Text

Chat stumbled out of his dream and into reality. Reality was cold. And wet.

Chloe had disappeared, as had Silent Night. Of course, while Chat was reliving one of his fondest childhood memories, bad things were happening in the real world. He just couldn’t seem to win.

He didn’t have any idea of where to start, Paris was a big city, and Silent Night was fast, she and Chloe could be just about anywhere by now.

Heaving a sigh, Chat fiddled with his ring. The entire time he’d been transformed he could feel Plagg fighting, trying to drop the transformation. If things weren’t moving so quickly, Adrien might have let it happen, but Silent Night was one of the (maybe merely the)  most powerful akumas he’d ever encountered and seem the most likely to do something drastic to Chloe. Or fatal.

“Sorry, Plagg, we don’t have time.” He tugged out his baton, hoping to catch some news report on where the akuma had gone when he felt it.

It wasn’t quite a rumble, but a very low vibration. It shook through the windows, making them rattle violently. Chat could feel it in his chest, somewhere between his heart and his stomach, and it felt a bit like a tug.

Leaning over one of the buildings, Chat saw people drop what they were doing and all head in one direction. They were streaming out of buildings, stopping cars to climb out; everyone’s expressions were mindless and blank. It was like the students and teachers from the school all over again, only on an enormous scale. People were swarming by the dozens, all following that same tug that was dragging them towards the Eiffel Tower and, without a doubt, to Silent Night.

(Chat tried to ignore the fact that he couldn't quite think of her as ‘Marinette’ anymore.)

(That wasn’t working so well for him.)

As he trailed the crowds from above, Chat felt the buzzing shaking his ribs. He hopped from rooftop to rooftop, everything still slick with rain, and made his way to the edge of the Champ de Mars.

It seems like we’ve traded places now, haven’t we Chaton? Chat could just barely make out Silent Night’s shape on the Tower from that far, but her voice was, ironic as it was, clear as day.

The little black dot started to move, heading up through the beams of the Tower and closer to the top. Chat swung into motion as well, dropping down to the ground and stepping over people. He was about halfway there when the voice called out again.

Alright everyone, time to get up.

They all rose as one. The citizens nearest to Chat grabbed onto his legs and dragged him to the ground. He huffed through his nose, shoving people off as gently as possible. This wasn’t like every other time he’d fought brainwashed Parisians, this time he didn’t know where Ladybug was or if she’d be able to heal them later.

Chat pulled out his baton and shot up into the air, gaining a few yards before the people below caught on and knocked him down again. It was slow going, but it would get him there faster than fighting through the mob of people would.

Let the show begin.

In his desperate attempts to vault over the crowds, Chat had looked away from Silent Night for a millisecond, and missed her reaching the top of the Tower. She had Chloe strung up like a pinata, dangling from a beam.

Chat paused and watched as the yellow figure started to fall from the top of the tower.

No!

 


 

“NO!” In the complete and utter terror of watching Chloe drop down the side of the tower, Marinette regained her voice.

And her body.

The Ladybug in her kicked in and she yanked, hard, dragging in the yo-yo up into her hand and then flinging it around a support. It locked, as sure as her usual yo-yo and Marinette grounded herself in that truth.

She threw herself from the ledge, speeding down towards Chloe. The girl’s mouth was open in a silent scream (Marinette couldn’t escape the silence today), arms reaching up above her as though she could grab onto something. Her eyes were still red and puffy from crying. That word Chloe kept repeating earlier echoed through Marinette’s mind.

Pathetic.

Except Marinette didn’t feel anger anymore, she felt pity.

It only took a second, but it felt like it took ages for Marinette to reach Chloe and pluck her from the air, swinging them both to a safe landing. Chloe was trembling in her arms and tugged away from Marinette as soon as she was on solid ground, crouching down and gasping into her knees.

“You’re not supposed to be playing games; you're supposed to be getting the Miraculous!” Papillion, who had been quiet since leaving the school, decided to weigh in finally.

Hush now, that wasn’t me.

Marinette frowned, testing her arms and finding she could move them without trouble, but couldn’t open her mouth to speak.

“Christmas music in Spring? Isn’t that a bit tacky?”

She whipped her head up, turning to see Chat Noir perched on a beam above her. He looked a bit winded, his breath coming in harsh pants, but he was staring down at her with his usual crooked smile. Marinette knew he was relieved nothing had happened to Chloe, knew he’d have blamed it on himself if something had.

Says the boy with cat ears and a tail. Silent Night bit back, her voice less melodic and soothing than before, more harsh and angry.

Chat’s eyes widened for a moment, and he seemed to freeze in place, hands curling inwards.

“You remind me of someone.” He swung down to her level, landing in a crouch.

I haven’t the faintest idea what you mean.

Marinette wasn’t having it, and hurried forwards, grabbing onto Chat’s arm once he’d stood. He tensed, then relaxed when she didn’t attack. His brow furrowed, and he was staring at her with consideration, eyes flittering across her face.

“Marinette, you’re still in there?”

She’s gone. But Marinette was fervently nodding her head, so it didn’t matter what Silent Night claimed.

Chat smiled softly, and for a second Marinette knew him. Not as Chat Noir, but someone else, someone dear to her. She just couldn’t place him.

“Take his Miraculous!” Papillion bellowed, but he had no hold on Marinette’s body, he couldn’t spur her into action.

Chat grabbed her shoulders, giving her a gentle shake. “Where’s the akuma? I need to find it for Ladybug.”

Though she hated that she did, Marinette hesitated.

If she passed over her yo-yo, Chat would rip it apart only discover Tikki inside. That itself would be enough to out her, but the akuma transformation wouldn’t drop until Ladybug had cleansed the akuma and repaired Paris. She had no way out, no way to hide and preserve her identity. Chat, Papillion, Chloe, and half of Paris would know who she was.

And not only that, but they would know that Ladybug had failed. She’d given into weakness and been akumized. How could the people of Paris ever trust her again, if she was just a fallible as anyone else?

How was could she trust herself?

 


 

Marinette’s face was crumbling, and she brought her hands up to cover her face.

“Hey, it’s okay.” Chat pulled her a little closer, dipping down to try and catch her eye, “If you let me help you, he can’t hurt you anymore.”

She shook her head, not looking up.

Silly minou, that’s not it. Can’t you see?

Frowning, Chat drew back from her. Silent Night still had the mic, even if Marinette had grabbed control of her body. Her voice was weakening, no longer backed with the power it had before, but still present and sharp. Whatever it was Silent Night wanted him to see, he wasn’t finding it.

Can’t you see her?

“What are you talking about?” Chat was spiraling, feeling himself teetering on a realization that he couldn’t quite reach.

“Why haven’t you gotten the akuma yet?!”

Chat startled, having forgotten all about Chloe. He turned, staring across at her.

Chloe was more off balance than he’d ever seen, her hair falling out of her ponytail, her eyes big and wild. Her face was blotchy from all the crying, clothes drenched and dirty. She was missing a shoe, and her bracelets had disappeared somewhere along the way, but she was still standing tall, staring him in the eye with a furious expression.

“She’s right there, why aren’t you doing anything?” Chloe demanded, crossing her arms. “Where’s Ladybug?”

Chat blinked at her, then at Marinette. Her spandex covered fingers hadn’t stopped digging into her brow, hiding her face from sight. Chat knew if she did look up, he’d be met with clear, bluebell eyes, just like-

“Where’s Ladybug?”

From where he stood, Chat could see little studs in Marinette’s ears, dark and easy to miss. Though Silent Night’s hair was up in a bun, Marinette usually wore hers in pigtails, all cutesy and charming, just like-

“Where’s Ladybug?”

Silent Night had a yo-yo, and even when Marinette had reclaimed her body and saved Chloe, she’d slung it like it was second nature, just like-

“Where’s Ladybug?”

They were never in the same place, Marinette was never around when Ladybug was, and Ladybug hadn’t been there the whole time Marinette had been akumized. He’d been chasing Silent Night around all day and hadn’t seen a speck of red anywhere. And Plagg had been trying to tell Adrien something before he transformed, something about Marinette.

Can’t you see her?

Chat reached up, gently covering Marinette’s hands with his own and pulling them from her face. They moved without resistance, and- there they were, those big blue eyes that Chat knew so well. That were more familiar when masked and he was stupid, cause he had noticed that before. He had seen it before, just for a second. And now he couldn’t unsee it.

“...my lady?”

Chapter Text

"...my lady?”

Marinette froze in place, her whole being quaking. She wouldn’t say she ‘burst into tears’ per say, but they certainly welled up faster than normal and blurred the world around her. Regardless, she couldn’t make herself look at Chat Noir, not now that he knew.

What was worse was that Chat also knew that Ladybug had failed. She’d let her emotions get the better of her and had let Papillion take over. Ladybug let the bad guy win, and she had to suffer the consequences. She might as well let everyone know she was Ladybug, so they finally see what a failure their hero was.

“What are you waiting for!?” Chloe’s voice pierced through Marinette’s self-loathing, sharp enough to get her to look up.

When she saw Chat, Marinette paused. She’d expected him to be angry, or at least disappointed. He knew that Ladybug wasn’t anyone special, she was a regular junior high student capable of weakness, just like anyone else. Chat should have be upset, devastated even, knowing that his partner was someone so... fallible.

But instead of anger or sadness, Chat wore a small, sweet smile, so unlike his usual cheeky grin. His eyes were crinkling at the edges that she could barely see their familiar green. Being honest, she knew it was unlikely that Chat would ever be truly angry with her, but this? Genuine happiness?

It was too much.

Now she did burst into tears, giving a pitiful little hiccup and covering her face once more. Marinette could feel Chat’s arms wrap around her, pulling her in close.

“It’s alright, it’s alright, I’ve got you.” He murmured, rubbing soothing circles on her back, and it was all too nice and sweet for Marinette to handle.

“Um, what is going on?”

Marinette peeked up as Chat glanced back at Chloe, his brow furrowed. It seems like they’d both mostly forgotten about her. Chat wrinkled up his nose, his thinking face, before he made an imploring expression.

“Well, obviously, I need to remove the akuma from the area before I can purify it. Ladybug and I already planned to meet at the school.”

“You did?” Chloe pulled a face, hands on her hips.

“Sure did! Bye now.”

Chat swept Marinette up even closer, and Marinette hopped that Chloe was distracted enough to not notice that she was clinging to Chat.

He launched off before Chloe could respond, vaulting them over the crowd and back into the direction of the school. Marinette didn’t really want to look down at all the people she’d been controlling so she hid in Chat’s neck, not even making an effort to stop the tears.

“We’re almost there my lady, just a little bit further...”

She didn’t need Chat’s assurances, she knew he’d get her there safely, but she appreciated them all the same.

When they did arrive, Chat picked a quiet, empty corner of the school to gently put Marinette down in. Marinette curled up on the floor, her knees gathered up to her chest.

It was silent a moment, it felt like they were both taking their first real breaths since this all started. Marinette look at her hands where they were wrapped around her legs, resolutely not making eye contact. She felt more than saw Chat sit down at her side. He tilted his head into her field of vision, and her eyes danced away before finally landing on him.

He had that cute little smile from before, though he looked a little warier now.

“Can he hear us?” Chat asked, making a vague gesture.

Marinette closed her eyes for a moment, listening. She couldn’t hear feel anything, and all she could hear was Chat shifting beside her. It seemed like Papillion was gone, or at least not present anymore. Silent Night was gone too.

“No.” She tested her voice and was pleasantly surprised when it rang out clear.

Chat looked pleased too. “Got your voice back too?”

“Yeah.” Though not her courage, it seemed.

“Awesome...” Chat trailed off, still smiling but looking a bit at a loss.

This is what she’d been afraid of the most. That when someone found out, their easy friendship would splinter apart. What do you say to the person who knows your biggest secret?

“My Lady-” He started, but cut himself off. “That is, Marinette...”

“I messed everything up.”

Chat turned to her quickly, frowning. “What?”

“I. Messed. Everything. Up.” Marinette repeated, each word sharp. “Ladybug is supposed to- I’m supposed to protect Paris and spent all day leading a witch hunt and endangering people. I let Papillion get to me.”

“Well, you’re still human-"

“But I’m supposed to be above all this!” Marinette grit out, scrubbing her face furiously. “I’m supposed to be a role model. I’m supposed to be better .”

Chat was silent for a moment.

“No one expects that of you.”

“Ha.” Marinette let out a bitter laugh. “I’m pretty damn sure they do.”

It was quiet again. Chat didn’t say anything, just stared at her. For some reason, that made Marinette angrier.

“Aren’t you disappointed?”

“Why would I be disappointed?”

“You know who I am now.” Marinette flung her hand up, as if encapsulating who she was with one frustrated wave. “You know that I’m just some dumb, clumsy, ordinary girl who can’t even stop a school bully from getting to her.”

“Marinette,” Chat grabbed one of her hands, “I’d never be disappointed that it’s you.”

She blinked at him, her expression scrunching. “What?”

“You’re one of the smartest, kindest, most talented people I’ve ever met in my entire life. Why would I be disappointed?” Chat repeated.

“You-You don’t even know me,” Marinette argued, shaking her head. “You’ve met me twice.”

“I do know you... well, I thought I did. But obviously not well enough if I couldn’t tell you’re... you .” Chat looked away, making a face. “How could I not see you?”

Marinette was shaking, her mind racing to keep up. “We know each other?”

Chat peeked at her out of the corner of his eyes and gave a little nod.

“ Oh my god, we know each other?!” Marinette grabbed her head. “How does that make you not hate me more?”

“First of all, my lady, I could never hate you. You’re my partner and my best friend. I trust you with my life, and I happen to like you an awful lot, I don’t think I’m capable of hating you.”

She paused at that, but Chat Noir was still going.

“Secondly, Marinette you’re amazing! You’ve won competitions, you’re class president, your designs are some of the most creative I’ve ever seen. And you’re so...so nice! Even to people who don’t deserve it.”

Marinette was shaking her head. “Are you sure that you’re talking about the right person?”

“Positive.” And he said it with so much conviction that Marinette couldn’t bring herself to argue more.

“I just...I thought that after knowing me as Ladybug, you’d think that Marinette is...” Marinette waved a hand around and made a face.

“To be honest with you, knowing that Marinette and Ladybug are the same only makes me like you both that much more.”

Marinette covered her face again, but for different reasons that time. It wasn’t too often that she got complimented, it was one thing to receive praise as Ladybug, she was a superhero, it was a given that she’d have fans. But as Marinette? The only people she had showering her in affection was her family and Alya and they were a. Her family, and b. Her best friend. It was pretty much required that they be nice to her.

But Chat...

“How can you even say that?”

“Okay, I’d be happy to address your startling and unwarranted self esteem problems as much as you’d like later, and I’m not saying that sarcastically, I honestly think we need to talk about this more, but we should probably start working on the akuma situation-”

“Oh my god, Tikki!” Marinette released her face and grabbed her yo-yo. “She’s been in here the whole time, oh my god.”

“Wait, your kwami is in your yo-yo?”

Marinette nodded, shoving the thing at Chat. “I think so. Here, break it!”

Chat grabbed the yo-yo in both hands and ripped it apart where the halves connected. It dropped to the ground, broken, and a little black butterfly flew out, just like usual. Unlike usual, a little red being fell out of it.

Marinette scooped her up, cradling her to her chest. Tikki’s eyes were closed, her brows contorted as though she was in pain. Marinette brush a finger against her head, she felt hot, a bit like when she’d gotten sick.

“Oh no, oh Tikki. What do I do?”

“I’m not sure, but I know someone who might.”

“What do you mean-” As Marinette glanced up, Chat dissolved into a flash of green light.

One second she was looking at Chat’s masked face and the next it was-

Adrien!? ” She gasped, the hand not holding Tikki flying to her mouth.

Tikki! ” A little voice came, and a black creature buzzed into her space. “Let me see her Marinette!”

Marinette was pulled from her shock for a moment to look down at the little cat that was grabbing at her hand, trying to pull it aside to get to Tikki. She moved her fingers and the kwami settled by Tikki’s side, holding up her head and caressing her cheek.

“Plagg, can you do something?” Chat (ADRIEN AGRESTE) was leaning forward, staring down at their kwamis.

Marinette resisted the urge to lean away, resisted the urge to scream, trying to hold Tikki still for Plagg check.

“I can lend her a bit of power, enough to purify the akuma, but we’ll need to take her to Master Fu’s as soon as possible.”

Plagg leaned down and gave Tikki a peck on the cheek. The spot he kissed shone a pearly white, buzzing for a moment before fading into Tikki’s skin. She gave a little snuffle, and stretched, her eyes blinking open slowly.

“Tikki!” Marinette and Plagg called in unison.

“Marinette? Plagg ?” Tikki looked more alert than before in an instant. “What happened?”

“Your girl got caught by Papillion, but she broke through all by herself.” Plagg hovered up to her, giving Marinette an appraising look.

“Oh, Marinette.” Tikki sat up, and Marinette felt shame wash over her.

“I’m so sorry Tikki. I didn’t mean to-” She could feel the tears starting to come on again, and she sniffles as she hung her head. 

“No, no Marinette, I’m not angry with you. What Chloe said to you was cruel and vile, and you had every right to be upset.” Tikki patted one of Marinette’s fingers. “I’m so glad you’re okay, and I’m so proud of you for overcoming it.

Marinette sniffled and gave Tikki a watery smile. “I’m glad you’re okay too.”

“Now, I assume that there’s an akuma that needs to be purified still?”

“I trapped it in the room.” Adrien’s sudden voice startled Marinette, and she glanced up to see him at a window, staring down the little butterfly.

In the brief moments that she’d been distracted, Marinette had forgotten that Adrien was here. And what’s more, Adrien was Chat Noir . The boy who ran around Paris in spandex with her, who cracked jokes and smiled wide and flirted like it was his last day on earth, was the one and only Adrien Agreste.

She felt like she should be more surprised. This was a revelation she never expected, but as she watched Adrien bat at the akuma and try to keep it from the windows without touching it, Marinette found that it didn’t shock her.

Marinette had always been able to tell there was something sad behind Chat’s bravado, he would stare at reunited families for a little too long, work extra hard to make sure they were whole and complete. He got quiet at times, after what she assumed were hard days, and was often beyond exhausted after a fight. And Adrien... well, it was no secret that his home life wasn’t perfect. He ran himself ragged to fulfill his father's wishes.

The more she thought about it, the more it made sense. Of course Adrien, buttoned up, perfect smile Adrien, became the goofy Chat Noir when he put on a mask. It was no different than clumsy, scatterbrained Marinette becoming the confident Ladybug when she put on hers. It all...fit, somehow.

“Marinette, you can panic about your love life later, right now we have work to do.” Plagg poked her cheek and Marinette felt herself turning red.

“Sorry, sorry, you’re right.”

Adrien had glanced over, and he gave her a big toothy grin, and it was so Chat Noir that it hurt right behind her ribs. Marinette took a deep breath and returned his smile.

They had a lot to learn about each other, but they were going to be just fine.

“Tikki, transform me!”

 


 

After Ladybug purified the akuma, summoned Lucky Charm just so she could use its cleansing powers (it transformed into a sponge and soap, Tikki’s idea of a joke no doubt), they brought Tikki to Master Fu’s. Adrien hadn’t met the man before, but he greeted them both warmly, assuring the duo that he’d take care of Marinette’s ‘cat’ and give her a call when she was well again. He gave Adrien a little wink when they left, and Adrien couldn’t quite shake the weird feeling of deja vu as he walked Marinette back to her house.

It was quiet as they walked, but not the kind of awkward quiet it would be if they didn’t know what to say. It was more like... peaceful, the calm after the storm. They’d been running around in circles for hours and no amount of magic could erase the emotional exhaustion of the day’s adventures.

Marinette was still a little shaken up, giving Adrien tentative glances from time to time. He didn’t bring up what had happened before it all started, didn’t talk about Chloe or the akuma, or even Ladybug and Chat Noir. He merely opened the door to the bakery for her and followed when she motioned him up the stairs to her house.

When she opened the door, Adrien got a glimpse of Alya sitting with Marinette’s parents, all of them crowded around the television and clinging to each other. The second they say Marinette though, they were up and out of their seats, crowding around her.

“Oh Marinette, oh ma fifille .” Her mother was crying, pressing kisses into Marinette’s hair and all over her cheeks.  

Alya was crying too, and not speaking for once, her eyes shut tight as she held Marinette.

Thomas Dupain had all three woman wrapped up in his big arms, as teary-eyed as the rest of them. Adrien couldn’t help but stare at, taking in their embrace and love, and feeling a weird emptiness in his stomach.

“Adrien, you brought her home?” Sabine asked when they all finally pulled away, moving to his side.

He gave her a nod, a polite smile. “I found her after Ladybug and Chat Noir left.”

“So Ladybug did show up?” Alya glanced away from Marinette, where she was straightening her pigtails and brushing through her bangs.

Adrien looked at Marinette a moment, probably a moment too long. “Yeah, she did. She always does.”

Marinette, who was teary from all the hugs, gave him a tiny, but genuine smile. Her face was a bit red and wet, and her hair was a mess from Alya’s fidgeting, and yet Adrien couldn’t help but think that she was the most spectacular thing he’d ever seen.

“Thank you for taking care of her, son.” Thomas gave Adrien a pat on the back and then a bear hug that had Adrien freezing, before he melted into it and returned it.

“It was no problem; I wanted to make sure she got back to you, safe and sound.”

“We appreciate that so much dear,” Sabine gave him a hug as well, her shorter frame making him bend over into it. “Would you like to stay for dinner? We could have some of those cookies you didn’t get to try last time...”

“That’s alright.” Adrien shook his head quickly. “My father is probably wondering where I am...”

“Of course.” Thomas gave a gracious nod. “I’m sure he’s worried sick.”

Adrien resisted making a face, trying to cover it with a smile. “Right.”

“Well, you're invited over anytime, we’d love to have you.” Sabine patted his cheek and Adrien could have melted from the kind, motherly smile she gave him.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Adrien glanced from the Dupain-Chengs to Marinette and Alya. They were whispering about something to each other, but when Alya saw Adrien looking, she nudged Marinette forwards and took a step to the side.

“Um.” Adrien scratched at his neck. “I guess I’ll see you at school?”

Marinette jutted out her lip, gave a huff, and rolled her eyes. The motion was so Ladybug that Adrien almost forgot where he was, and even more so when Marinette grabbed him and pulled him into a crushing hug.

“Thanks for everything, mon minou. ” She said quiet enough that only he could hear, and Adrien held back a shiver.

When Marinette released him, she patted Adrien on the cheek, just like her mother.

“We’ll talk later.”

“Okay.” Adrien gulped and made for the door.

He glanced at Alya, who rose a single eyebrow. Adrien gave a toothy grin and a shrug, making Alya’s other brow to shoot up to join the first.

“See you at school.” Adrien waved and hopped down the stairs, smiling to himself the whole way.

 


 

“I’ll get some food started, Alya are you staying?” Sabine asked as she bustled into the kitchen.

“Already texted my mom!” Alya called out, before grabbing Marinette's hand. “I’m gonna take Mari to get cleaned up.”

Marinette tried to keep her expression impassive while Alya dragged her up the stairs, depositing her on her chaise.

“What was that about?” Her friend crossed her arms, eyebrows high.

“What was what about?"

Alya rolled her eyes. “You, Adrien, hugging. Plus, you managed to get out a full sentence around him.”

“It’s nothing, he just took me home, and I was thankful-"

“Marinette, last week you tried to thank him for picking up your books and ended up stumbling mid-sentence again, dropping the books he’d just picked up.”

“It’s nothing.” Marinette repeated.

Alya didn’t look convinced and remained in place, still staring. Marinette sighed. If she explained, she’d be outing Adrien, and she didn’t want to do that without his permission. Herself, however...

And well, she’d wanted to tell Alya for a while now...

“Actually, there was something I wanted to talk to you about, unrelated to Adrien.”

Well, it was related to Adrien, but Alya didn’t need to know that yet.

“I’m all ears.” Alya shook her head at Marinette’s evasion, but she wore a fond little smile that made Marinette surer.

“Do you remember the first day of school, when Ivan got akumized? What am I saying, of course you do. Well, when I got home that day, I found something weird on my desk...”